sábado, 2 de junio de 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moon: english vr.

Disclaimer: english is not my first language, and I'm from a place where “teaching english at school” means, in fact, “throw the kids the same grammar book every year and see what happens”. So yes; my english is faulty, mainly learnt from tv series, books and internet interactions, and it's going to show.

It's not like this fact would stop me from reviewing books. I love reading and a lot of the titles I enjoy never will get published in spain; or worse, the book gets the “foreign SFF book treatment”: rushed translations full of mistakes and as hard to read as Spock's emotional swings.

I could review them only in spanish and add the old, dreamy “I hope it gets published here” or, ehm, “Look, get the UK/US edition if you can because the spanish translation is abysmal and it's going to make you throw the book and scream of rage and frustration”; but there's the fact that an english language review allows more people to read it, too. That's why I'm going to do reviews both in english and spanish. I'm not going to write them exactly the same, though; so if you know both languages you can read both if you want.

I have two uses for Twitter: exchange silliness with friends, and stalk - follow SFF writers. That's how I found out about Saladin Ahmed and, after reading a bunch of positive reviews (and most importantly, an excerpt of the first chapters) I went and bought Throne of the Crescent Moon.
Then I proceeded to read it all in one go. I'ts a well written adventure, with characters that made me care for them*. The prose adapts nicely to the setting and the dialogues reflect the culture the characters live in (which is something that, surprisingly, is easily forgotten in medieval fantasy).

Things I like:
-First and foremost, Dhamsawatt. Mr. Ahmed paints an arabic-like city full of life, sounds, smells and people, and makes it believable. This is not the typical cardboard fantasy city; it has a personality of its own. I think I just found my second favourite fictional city, only second to Anhk-Morpork.

-The characters and how they change and grow throughout the story. Ok, it's a book about a reluctant hero and his friends fighting monsters to save the world, but it's a book about relationships too. It's about love, duty, choices and regrets, and it has an unexpected melancholic undertone.

-The female characters. It's difficult to keep a balanced act between “Warrior Princess” and the trope of the medieval housewife, even more when it's made clear by the setting that the different cultures shown put a lot of value on family bonds; but I think the author got away with it pretty gracefully. We get competent, clever female characters that work and fight on par with men, even if they spend time here and there thinking about marriage and children (men do so too, since the choice between duty and family seems to be one of the main themes). It is made clear to us that their position came with a high cost, though, and it's not the norm.. Then again, not unlike the male characters...

-The fight scenes are clear and understandable! Here, have a box of kittens.

-The ample use of profanities, creative insults as greetings and/or bodily sounds: I'm a south european, you see**. It's refreshing to find a book where this behaviours are reflected -and just barely shunned.

Things I didn't like: The Falcon prince subplot felt a bit stiff. It's like it's there just to serve as a starting point for future plots, and the character itself is a bit too much cartoony when compared with the main characters. Something like, er:

Yep. Just like that.

The end feels a bit rushed, too. Not by much, and I'm thankful that time and pages were spent in worldbuilding and character interaction instead, but I was a bit... “uh? That's it?”. That and a lack of depth in the villains' development are the main flaws I find in what is otherwise a good read.

*Even if I consider having an elderly character grieving the loss of their beloved library mildly cheating because it appeals to my geek, bookish heart and never fails to make me weep. That's the reason I stopped rewatching The name of the rose.

**Meaning that when I was a child it took me years to discover that “hijo de puta” (motherfucker) isn't always meant as a friendly greeting. Who knew!

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